Polenta is one of those dishes that really doesn’t take anything but time. Plus, you can dress it up or down, make it creamy or firm and go from there. This makes about 6 servings:
- 1 cup polenta (or medium or fine cornmeal)
- Parmesan, optional
For firm polenta use 4 cups water; for soft use 5 cups water. Bring water to a boil in a medium-size heavy saucepan over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Pour the polenta very slowly into the water, stirring with a wire whisk or wooden spoon. Continue stirring as mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn heat to low. Cook for at least 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If polenta becomes quite thick, thin it with ½ cup water, stir well and continue cooking. Add up to 1 cup more water as necessary, to keep polenta soft enough to stir. After 45 minutes, take a taste. The grains should be swollen and taste cooked, not raw. Adjust salt, add pepper if you wish.
If you’re making it firm, lightly butter a baking sheet or shallow dish, approximately 8½ by 11 inches. Carefully pour polenta into pan. Using a spatula, spread it to a thickness of ¾ inch. Cool to room temperature to allow it to solidify. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or cut into serving pieces and freeze for future use.
For soft polenta, add 6 tablespoons butter to pot and stir well. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired, serve immediately and enjoy!
This is my go-to recipe for polenta, both creamy and firm. It always comes out perfectly. We love the firm polenta for our version of Home Kitchen Café’s great eggs Benedict, where grilled polenta replaces English muffins and used to have egg-sized slabs of polenta in the freezer just in case.
Most recently I used soft polenta as a base for the chicken with salami and olives, but went easy on the butter and cheese. When you buy it, just make sure you get the regular stuff, not the instant. It’s worth the extra time.